Culture Corner: Miss Julie – The Darwinian Battle Between Master and Servant


In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Scandinavian theater was ahead of the rest of the theatrical world, experimenting with new styles and exploring unique themes that defied tradition. The works of August Strindberg, Henrik Ibsen, and Hjalmar Soderberg have stood the test of time, taking on the dramatist heavyweights, whether it is Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller.

A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, Peer Gynt, The Father, and The Dance of Death. The list of brilliant Scandinavian output is impeccable. But one play demands a reading – and more than once, too.

Strindberg's masterful Miss Julie was a production like no other, even to this day. It became the standard-bearer of the naturalist movement in European drama that creates an illusion of reality on stage, blending the concepts of Darwinism, class hierarchy, feminism, and caving (or suppressing) our thriving biological urges.

Based on a story he once heard, Strindberg's Miss Julie is about a mistress of the house who is attracted to a senior servant, Jean, who is engaged to another servant in the manor, Christine. On the surface, it is a simple story that sees two main characters swapping their master-servant roles in life. Underneath that surface, it provides the audience with something deeper.

Strindberg summarized his play as being about two main characteristics engaging in a Darwinian life and death battle and survival of the fittest: “Life is not so idiotically mathematical that only the big eat…

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